It goes without saying that a great knife is any cook’s most important tool in the kitchen. We recently highlighted some of our favorites, but it’s always insightful to see what the pros use. Professional chefs need several sharp, steel blades in their arsenal—each with a different purpose and precision for slicing and dicing—but there’s often a tried-and-true, multifunctional model that they rely on, whether cooking in their restaurants or at home.
We tapped nine of the country’s best chefs to share their top knife picks and highlight what sets them apart. These culinary connoisseurs have the skills, knowledge and technical prowess to help you invest in an outstanding blade that will ultimately change your kitchen routine.
Saba, New Orleans and Safta, Denver
The James Beard Award-winning chef is a big fan of Shun knives, which are incredibly sharp and handcrafted in Japan. “I believe they hold their edge really well and the shape of the handles fit my hand well,” shares Shaya. “I also really like that they have a little weight to them, which compliments the way I dice. A must-have for me is the classic 8-inch chef’s knife.”
Cúrate and La Bodega, Asheville
This celebrated Southern chef’s go-to is the Misono UX10 Japanese chef’s knife. “I love it because it is lightweight, sharpens relatively easily, and holds a nice edge,” Button says. “I’ve had it for 12 years, and it’s in great shape. My mother actually introduced it to me. She had after years of operating her own catering business decided to go to culinary and restaurant management school in hopes of one day opening her own restaurant. She bought me that knife when I switched careers into cooking, I think she knew one day we would own a restaurant together. That knife was the first step.”
Atoboy and Atomix, New York City
“In a restaurant, a chef uses a variety of different knives, each with a specific purpose. But for the times that I am traveling for work or an event, I often carry Shibata Kotetsu SG2 Gyutou 210mm (8.2″) for all purposes,” shares Park. “This knife is perfect for me because my personal preference is a thinner, lighter knife. It’s also great for butchering fish, handling vegetables, and even as a slicer. While it is definitely pricier than a typical home knife, I think for its price and how often it will get utilized, it’s a great value ratio compared to many of the pricier knives out there (which can be over a thousand dollars).”
Taj Campton Place, San Francisco and Ettan, Palo Alto, Calif.
“My current favorite is Syosaku chef’s knife,” shares the two-Michelin-starred Gopinathan. “A hammered Damascus high carbon stainless steel knife with a magnolia wood handle, it’s a tool handcrafted in Japan that is as beautiful as it is functional. Multipurpose and versatile, this knife is super sharp and you can retain the edge fairly quickly. I’ve had it for over two years now, and it’s been incredibly useful; from slicing fish to chopping vegetables, the Syosaku knife’s artisan qualities truly shine.”
Field Trip, Harlem
The acclaimed chef and culinary personality also relies on Middleton knives as his standard go-to in the kitchen. After meeting the owner at the Charleston Wine and Food Festival about five years ago, Johnson has used Middleton knives ever since. He loves that they are handmade and how they hold, noting that it’s a real luxury knife.
Sushi Ginza Onodera, Los Angeles
The Michelin two-star chef’s favorites are the Maguro and Yanagiba knives made by Tatsuo Ikeda, a traditional, award-winning craftsman from Osaka, Japan. Matsuki got the knives for the opening of his West Hollywood omakase restaurant. He uses the Yanagiba knife for creating sushi every day, while the three-foot-long Maguro knife is made in the same way as a samurai sword, and is specifically used for cutting tuna.
Red Rooster and Red Rooster Overtown, Harlem
“Historically, knife-making for chefs has been led by companies in Japan, France, and Germany. In the 2000s, Americans got in the game and it was really fantastic to see the shift to making them in places like Wisconsin, Texas, the Bay Area, and more,” shares the James Beard Award-winning chef Samuelsson. “I admire any craft that’s made with one’s hands—it’s such a draw. I was introduced to a great knife company in Austin called Weige Knives.” Samuelsson also likes using South Carolina-based Middleton knives.
FIG and The Ordinary, Charleston
The James Beard Award-winning chef is a big advocate for the Middleton brand. These stylish knives are hand-forged in Charleston by a great craftsman and local fella, Quinton Middleton, who was mentored by master bladesmith Jason Knight. “The knives hold their edge really well, and are comfortable and lightweight, without being flimsy,” shares Lata, who uses the French-style 9-inch chef’s knife most often. And Middleton oyster knives were instrumental in helping Lata master the art of shucking when he opened his seafood-centric spot, The Ordinary.
Mozza Restaurant Group, Los Angeles
“I have a lot of knives,” the James Beard Award-winning chef Silverton says. “I have chef’s knives, boning knives, paring knives, cleavers, and a full range of other knives in my collection. It is hard to choose a favorite, but I’d have to pick my bread knife by Friedr. Herder Constant, which was a family-owned German company for hundreds of years, but is no longer producing knives. I’ve had this knife for almost 30 years and it has not lost its sharpness. When looking for knives, I look for high quality, artisanally made knives. I love its scalloped edges, the design detail, and the length of the blade. The idea of slicing bread with this knife that cuts through it like butter is a joy.”